A Victoria woman has successfully appealed her conviction for the first degree murder of her 18-month-old daughter in September 2015.
The BC appeals court ruled against Kaela Janine Mehl, who was found guilty by a jury in October 2017 and sentenced to 25 years of life imprisonment without parole.
In its decision, the appellate court found that Mehl’s lawyer had not provided professional help. “Taken together, the trial attorney’s actions and omissions resulted in a trial that was, in fact and in appearance, unfair,” the unanimous decision read.
“There is also a reasonable likelihood that the outcome would have been different if adequate professional assistance had been provided.”
Mehl admitted that she killed her daughter Charlotte by feeding her yogurt a lethal dose of zopiclone and then choking her to death in the early morning of September 16, 2015.
She and her husband Daniel Cunningham were embroiled in an ugly, tumultuous custody battle for their child after breaking up in May 2015.
Their exchange of the toddler took place at the Saanich police station.
During Mehl’s trial, the behavior of a juror who made compassionate hand gestures to the baby’s father and family undermined the fairness of the trial, the appeals court said. The judge’s behavior was never brought to the attention of the judge, whose identity is protected by a ban on publication.
The appeals court found that on the first day of the second week of the trial, the juror looked directly at the Cunningham page of the gallery and smiled. That day and the next, the juror pounded his heart at least twice with his fist. Although the defense attorney had seen the gesture, he decided not to address it to the judge.
The juror also winked and smiled at the Cunningham family later in the trial. On the day the submissions were closed, the judge smiled, grinned, and nodded to the Cunningham family. When Mehl was convicted, the juror made the knock gesture again.
The appeals court found that a reasonable person would assume that the jury is unlikely to be impartial
and the semblance of justice had failed.
At the trial, the defense had two psychiatrists testify, who argued that Mehl suffered from a mental disorder that severely impaired her mental state and impaired her ability to think rationally.
The Crown’s theory was that Mehl was suddenly faced with the reality that she had to share custody of her daughter with Cunningham and his family, who she didn’t like, and she killed Charlotte to prevent her from accessing the little one Girls had.
Mehl hired private detectives, secretly recorded the exchanges, and followed the family to find evidence that the child was not safe with them. She went to the police and the Department of Child and Family Development, but did not get the help she needed. At the same time, the courts increased the family’s access to the child.
On September 15, 2015, Mehl, frustrated, stressed and losing hope in the custody battle for the child, decided to kill herself and her daughter because she did not want to leave the child behind, as told by the family of her ex-husband, the Krone.
Mehl began researching deadly doses of zopiclone and began writing a suicide note. She fed the child the drugs and suffocated him. Then Mehl took what she believed to be a lethal dose of sleeping pills and finished her suicide note, which she emailed to her ex-husband’s family and the family lawyer.
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